If you are having a lover’s quarrel, that’s might be good news. The first part of the good news is that they can happen after a couple of months or a couple of decades. The second part is that lover’s quarrels are necessary in order to build intimacy. Now I know that sounds wrong but it’s true. Intimacy is built though conflict resolution. The key word here is “resolution”. Conflict just creates yuckiness but once you are through the yuck you discover things about your relationship that you never knew existed:
- “I can’t believe they are still here after all those things I said.”
- “They have seen me at my worse and they are still here.”
- “Just because they want me to change the way I do something or say something doesn’t mean they don’t love me.”
- “They didn’t mean to hurt my feelings, but they did.”
- I didn’t know I was important enough to them that they struggled through this quarrel with me.
- “They accepted my forgiveness.”
- “They said they were sorry. I hate admitting when I’m wrong. I can’t believe they did that.”
- “I can’t believe they cried. I can’t believe I cried too.”
Quarrels typically begin with a hurt or a resentment. These could be anything from “I can’t believe you told your mother.” To “Why did you tell the kids ‘yes’ when I said ‘no’?” Each resentment translates into “If you loved me you wouldn’t do it.” So the upcoming quarrel is not about in laws or kids but rather “Is this your way of saying you don’t love me?”
Let’s face it. The easier thing in the short haul is to not quarrel- to ignore it, to pretend it doesn’t matter and to let the petty resentments build up. But of course, over time the resentments begin to make you hide a portion of yourself because you do not want them to know what you are thinking. Hiding is the opposite of intimacy. Intimacy is about difficult words like openness, sacrifice, and vulnerability. And yet is there anything sweeter than sharing the resentment in your head with someone that loves you to discover that they do not want you to think that, feel that, or let that resentment come between you. So you quarrel until you agree to try something new. Then you do that as long as it works until it doesn’t so you try again, and again.
Through these small conflict resolutions, you gain more confidence in your relationship’s ability to endure. Sometimes every hurt is not translate into “they don’t love me.” but rather “They hurt my feelings again but that doesn’t mean they don’t love me.” You trust a little more and behold- there is more intimacy.
The Bible describes the essence of intimacy in Song of Solomon 2:16 My beloved is mine and I am his. This is belonging to each other is achieved only by giving to each other not just love and adoration but the gift of the dark thoughts that threaten to drive you apart. Give more. Receive more. Belong just a little bit more.